Thursday, 23 May 2013

A sunny day at Bempton Cliffs, sprained ankles and Auks, Gulls & Gannets aplenty!

Ok, I'm going to start this piece with a top tip for the over 50s -

If you must walk the entire length of Spurn Point and back again, don't expect to be able to leap in and out of a campervan like a nimble young gazelle. I tried it and sprained my ankle the day after my last post!

I've been hobbling about ever since and although thankfully the ankle is now on the mend this has severely restricted my movements of late. After a trip to A & E to check that nothing was broken the advice I was given was gentle exercise of said ankle and walk on it as best I can -  so what did I do? Well I had planned a trip out to the RSPB reserve Bempton Cliffs before I damaged myself and even though my own son astutely pointed out that a stroll along the top of the highest cliffs on the Yorkshire was probably not the brightest of ideas for an invalid I did it anyway. It was maybe stretching the medical advice a tad but I get madder with age and I was desperate to get out in the campervan again ......driving if comfortable to do so was also recommended as good exercise so that was all the excuse I needed!

Suffice to say I struggled and my ankle was killing me after just a few hundred yards but I did mange some reasonable shots of passing Gannets, Auks and Gulls. It really is a wildlife photographer's paradise but I was disappointed not to get more Puffins ... they've suffered recently due to some bad weather events in the North Sea and I do hope these comical creatures recover well and have a good breeding season.

Here's the place then. This is a view looking South towards Flamborough Head.


Stacks of Gannets about and some smashing fly past birds at quite close range. This one turned out pretty good!

Kittiwake..... drifting by

There's always been a healthy population of Kittiwakes at Bempton and whilst I'm sure they've declined in numbers over the years along with the rest of the seabirds they certainly seemed to be in abundance on the day I visited. Lovely and gentle looking gulls, rarely seen inland they spend the entire Winter in the Atlantic, they breed on rocky coasts right around the UK and you can tell them from other gulls from their inky black wing tips and of course their distinctive cry from whence they get their name.

Common Gull ...'lazin on a sunny afternoon'
I've said before on this blog that gulls are 'tricky' little things to ID at the best of times, so maybe I can excuse myself for thinking I'd got a nice Kittiwake yawning in the sun, but just as I was processing this pic I realised it was in fact a Common or 'Mew' Gull ... nice all the same. Bloody hell I've only been birding 35 years and still making basic observation errors! Or maybe I'm just going senile, what the hell, it made a nice picture!
 Yes it was a lovely sunny day and don't we just deserve this flash of Summer the weather gods have served up for us lately ..lets hope its the real deal and not merely an aperitif! Flowers always look 10 times better in the sun and I was amazed at how many Pink Campions were adorning the cliff edges and surrounding fields ... common they may be but anything that turns the normally bleak landscape of Bempton pink deserves an extra large pic in my blog!

Pink Campions

Onto the Auks then and of course at this time of the year the cliffs are thronging with Guillemots, Puffins and Razorbills and their whirring wings and frantic activity certainly bring in the visitors ... the car park at Bempton was full and the birds here attract more visitors than York City football club!

Really tricky to get good shots of auks in flight because their wings beat so fast and unless one has an ultra fast camera they usually come out as a bit of a blur but here's a reasonable Puffin passing by.

Puffin .. fly past

Oo er, ouch ... is that a razor Bill?


This is really what all the squawking is about of course ..... here's a couple of Razorbills caught on cam. May they all be doing a lot more of it regardless of who's watching (like they care!) ... Auk numbers have declined rapidly over the last few decades, mainly due to marine degradation and subsequent loss of sand eels so all power to the various Wildlife Trust's (and Yorkshire is up there and leading the way) for pursuing the creation of marine conservation areas.

Here's another couple of fine Razorbill specimens, one in flight and one standing proud on the cliff edge.

Razorbill past

Lone Razorbill standing proud
Somehow I failed to get a single decent shot of a Guillemot on the day but there'll be another time over the next couple of months or so and I hear that certain spots around Flamborough Head are actually better for getting close up views of Puffins so I'll be beating up there soon for that lucky mouthful of sand eels shot!

Meanwhile here's a parting shot of another beautiful bird on the decline around our shores .. its an ocean going Fulmar, neither an auk or a gull, its a 'tubenose' and a relative of the mystical Albatross.



IIE said...

Great picture of the birds. Amazing Pictures of Lone Razorbill. I would like to look for more.

Tim Ward said...

Thank you, pleased you like the pics .. that lone Razorbill sure struck a great pose!

douglas mcfarlane said...

I've only ever had one image published and that was of a Gannet landing in Pink Canpions at Bempton so I have a soft spot for pink campion,gannets and bempton, great post Tim shame about the lack of Puffins.